Chalet Studio – 30+ Years of Record Making
by David Chester
Chalet Studio started out as a dream. It began with a search for property near Toronto. At first, everything was too expensive, until I noticed a property in Durham that had a stunning view of Lake Ontario and 40 acres of land. It was in the country but only 45 minutes from the city.
I’ve always loved the concept of a residential studio – a place where artists could stay as well as work, so they get away from it all in a place that inspires creativity. I wanted big windows so artists could be surrounded by nature. Most recording engineers toil in downtown studios with no connection to the natural environment. But in a country studio, you simply have to look out a window to connect with the natural world.
Now, as I look back at all the memorable sessions we’ve had in Chalet’s 30 plus-year history, it seems unbelievable we have come this far. It wasn’t easy to get started. I was 25 years old at the time and I had just finished studying music at Carleton, York, and Humber and spending several years with my band on the road. My wife, Sheila-Marie Richardson (“She” for short) and I were starting from the ground up, so we faced many hurdles, such as trying to attract staff and clients into the countryside and the costs of recording gear and building a professional-quality soundproof studio.
Chalet needed its first big client to put us on the map. We set our sights on Rush, one of the most recognizable bands in Canada. After many attempts at contacting their management, they told us our equipment wasn’t up to their standard. They sent the long list of gear Chalet would need to get their business (and still, there were no guarantees).
I decided to go big or go home. I “rolled the bones” and re-mortgaged everything, purchased the needed equipment – and in the end, one of Canada’s most iconic bands spent almost five months on their album Presto in our studio. To accommodate Rush, we supplied a sound engineer, gourmet chef, daily maid service and a “handy man”. They always had a creative project on the go outside of their music, like “decorating” our old Dodge station wagon. Over time they came back to write three more records – Roll The Bones, Test For Echo and Counterparts.
In 2001, She and I decided to take Chalet to another level – we moved there permanently and turned it into a Bed and Breakfast/recording studio. With my family there, it was not uncommon for us to sit down at breakfast (or brunch, given that they were musicians) with the band in recording. This was something that many families would not be able to handle, but musicians are, as a rule, very polite and respectful, and really interesting people. To this day, we still grow wonderful friendships with many of our clients.
In spite of the many challenges we face trying to stay current in the ever-changing music industry, our intense love of the space, the music created here, and the people we meet continue to inspire us to share our special way of life with others here at the Chalet.